On January 25 “Reporters without Borders“ international organization released its tenth annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index. The study was conducted in 179 countries and reflects the situation around media freedom within December 1, 2010 and November 30, 2011. RSF index was compiled by surveying 18 partner organizations and 150 correspondents of RSF, as well as journalists, researchers, lawyers and human rights activists. The respondents were assessing the press freedom in each country with a questionnaire compiled by RSF and including 44 criteria: ranging from various forms of pressure on journalists and media to legislative restrictions. The report also establishes the degrees of self-censorship and of impunity enjoyed by those responsible for press freedom violations.
Many changes in the rankings reflect a year of 2011 that was incredibly rich in developments, especially in the Arab world, the “Reporters without Borders” study notes. RSF believes that “the past year highlighted the leading role played by netizens in producing and disseminating news”.
The divergence between EU member-states in the field of freedom of expression continues to increase. Even though EU countries still head the index (Finland and Norway share the first rankings, then come Estonia and Netherlands, which are followed by Austria, Iceland, Luxembourg and Switzerland), other EU members have nothing to brag of: Italy (61st ranking), Greece (70-71) and Bulgaria (80-83) continue giving up positions “because of a lack of political will”. Like previously, at the bottom rankings are Turkmenistan (177), North Korea (178) and Eritrea (179).
Of the former USSR countries, the situation in Baltic states is traditionally benign. Nonetheless, the contrast sharpened even among them. If Estonia is in the top four, the rankings of Lithuania (30-31 versus 11-13 in 2010) and Latvia (50-51 against 30-31) fell significantly “as a result of grotesque court rulings and increased interference by the security services”. RSF notes an overall improvement in the situation of Moldova (53 versus 75), Ukraine (116 versus 131), Kyrgyzstan (108-109 versus 159), Kazakhstan (154 versus 162), Uzbekistan (157 versus 163). The rankings of Russia (142 versus 140), Tajikistan (122-124 versus 115) and Belarus (168 versus 154) declined.
Among South Caucasus countries the rung of Georgia (104 -105 versus 99-100 in 2010) and Azerbaijan (162 versus 152) saw a descent in 2011. In comparison with 2010 (101-102), in 2011 Armenia’s press freedom index rose 24 places (77). Nevertheless, according to RSF, the Armenia “index seems spectacular, but in fact it has just gone back to where it was three years ago, before the brutal crackdown after the disputed 2008 elections”. The Armenian media “are nonetheless subject to constant judicial harassment and the size of the damages demanded in lawsuits is intimidating. Self-regulation is a major challenge that still needs to be tackled”, the study of “Reporters without Borders” mentions.